Landmark Home Affairs Committee Report Calls for Urgent Action to Tackle Abuse of Retailers

ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) has welcomed a new report from the Home Affairs Committee on violence and abuse towards retail workers, which urges the Government to do more to protect people working in local shops.

The Committee’s Inquiry into violence and abuse against retail workers, chaired by Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP, was launched in December 2020, and took evidence from ACS, USDAW, the BRC, Boots and others during a series of evidence sessions earlier this year.

Referring to evidence from ACS that 89% of people working in local shops have suffered some form of abuse over the last year, the Committee’s report goes on to make a series of recommendations, including:

  • There needs to be a ‘much stronger and more serious response from the police’ when incidents are reported
  • A mandatory requirement for the police to ‘formally flag offences committed in a retail environment’ to give a consistent indication of the scale of the problem
  • Chief Constables should ‘ring-fence a proportion of their additional policing capacity to expand neighbourhood teams’ and build relationships with retailers locally
  • A sustainable increase in funding which is ‘urgently needed’ for local drug rehabilitation services
  • The Government ‘should consult urgently on the scope of a new standalone offence’ for abusing a retail worker

On the creation of a new offence, the Committee’s report states: “We believe that retail workers must also be recognised, and that offences against them must be treated with additional seriousness, with extra protection from the law. The Government should consult urgently on the scope of a new standalone offence. A clear message must be sent that nobody should feel unsafe at work.”

The Committee’s recommendations are at odds with a Government statement from last week, rejecting an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would introduce tougher penalties for those attacking retail workers.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “This is a landmark report that should form the blueprint for tackling retail crime and violence against retailers and shopworkers. The report has identified the right measures to improve police response and the courts treatment of repeat offenders, particularly those with addiction problems that need effective rehabilitation.

“Existing powers, structures and legislation are not working. We need meaningful change, and the Government should adopt all the committee’s recommendations.”

Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP said: “Everybody should be safe at work. Shop workers are the lifeblood of our local high streets and communities. During the Covid-19 pandemic, retail workers kept our communities going and they deserve our thanks and gratitude. It is even more shameful, then, that abuse and assaults against shopworkers went up during the pandemic, and it is completely unacceptable that these attacks have become so commonplace in our society.

“Yet too often the police have not taken these crimes seriously enough and workers have been left to deal with the traumatic consequences alone. Those who abuse and assault shop workers must not be allowed to reoffend with impunity. Policing leaders must step up and make this a priority for local forces – with more neighbourhood police, clear plans to identify repeat offenders, respond to incidents swiftly and better record and understand patterns of local crimes.

“Other public workers have rightly been afforded extra protection by the law in recognition of the public service they provide and the increased risks they face, and a standalone offence for assault on emergency workers has produced promising early results in increasing prosecutions. Violence and abuse towards shop workers must be treated with the same seriousness and those workers must be afforded similar protection in law.”

Figures from the 2021 ACS Crime Report show that there were over 40,000 violent attacks against people working in convenience stores and 1.1m incidents of theft over the last year, many of which committed by repeat offenders with a drug or alcohol addiction. The report also shows that there have been over 1.2m incidents of abuse over the last year, which often go unreported.

ACS is currently co-ordinating with the Home Office, Crimestoppers and over 100 leading retailers in the UK on the ShopKind campaign, urging consumers to be respectful of others whilst in stores. Campaign materials for retailers are available to download on the NBCC website here.

Violence and Abuse Against Retailers: Timeline

  • March 2019: ACS, Home Office and retail sector launch #AlwaysReportAbuse campaign.
  • April 2019: Call for evidence on violence and abuse is launched, and receives responses from almost 3,500 interested parties, including retailers and colleagues that have been victims of abuse and violence at work.
  • March 2020: Yvette Cooper speakers at Retail Industry Parliament Reception on violence and abuse against shopworkers.
  • March 2020: Ten Minute Rule motion on Assaults on Retail Workers, proposed by Alex Norris MP, is passed and added to the register of Parliamentary business. The Bill is first scheduled to be debated in April 2020, but is subsequently delayed.
  • May 2020: Police and Crime Commissioner elections are delayed due to Coronavirus, currently scheduled to take place in May 2021.
  • July 2020: Government issues formal response to call for evidence on violence and abuse over a year after the consultation closed, stating that no changes to the law are necessary.
  • September 2020: Crime Minister Kit Malthouse writes to all Police and Crime Commissioners, reminding them of the importance of prosecuting shop theft offences under the value of £200 as well as those over £200.
  • December 2020: Home Affairs Select Committee launches new consultation, looking at whether the Government’s own response to its call for evidence was adequate.
  • February 2021: Scottish Parliament passes the Protection of Workers (Retail and Age-restricted Goods and Services) (Scotland) Act. The Bill was sponsored by Daniel Johnson MSP and introduced an aggravated offence for attacks on shopworkers
  • March 2021: ACS launches 2021 Crime Report, revealing that 89% of colleagues in stores have been the victim of abuse over the last year, with a total of 1.2m incidents of abuse recorded.
  • April 2021: ACS gives evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, outlining the scale of the problem of violence and abuse against shopworkers.
  • April 2021: ACS, the Home Office, Crimestoppers and over 100 retailers and trade bodies come together to launch the #ShopKind campaign, funded by the Home Office.
  • May 2021: Second reading of Alex Norris’ Bill on Assaults on Retail Workers is once again delayed. A second reading date is yet to be set.
  • May 2021: Police and Crime Commissioner elections take place. ACS sets out a series of recommendations for Police and Crime Commissioners to encourage them to take retail crime more seriously.
  • June 2021: Shadow Policing Minister proposes an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill that would introduce a new offence for abusing a shopworker.
  • June 2021: Government rejects amendment to PCSC Bill, stating that existing legislation is adequate to deal with violence and abuse. Suggests that employers need to do more to increase reporting levels.
  • June 2021: Home Affairs Select Committee, led by Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP, publishes report on violence and abuse against retailers, calling for urgent action to address the problem. Recommendations include a new offence for attacking shopworkers, and a more formal response to incidents from police.
This entry was posted by Chloe on Tue, 29/06/2021 - 08:59